Dorian Finney-Smith scored a team-high 16 points, Michael Frazier II added 12 and the Florida Gators (7-4) defeated the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (5-6) 63-50 in the Orange Bowl Classic at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida on Saturday night.
After leading at halftime by nine points and allowing Wake Forest to bring the game within one late in the second half, Florida ended the game on an 11-1 run in a time span that lasted over four minutes.
However, offensively this was a game that caused the Gators to back track to performing poorly and head coach Billy Donovan knew it.
“To me it was a very, very sloppy game,” Donovan said. “There was no flow at all.”
It wasn’t easy for the Gators offensively and the team showed a slight reflection of their early season shooting struggles with a 30 percent ranged shooting first half.
Florida went on an eight-minute scoring drought and was 0 of their last 10 before entering halftime with the narrow lead. Kasey Hill, who only had six points with one assist, ended the offensive woes after making a free throw before halftime.
Then again midway through the second half, the Gators went on another drought of over four minutes.
It was book-ended by Chris Chiozza three’s, the second of which would see Florida steadily improve from that point on.
A part of improving beyond those first half woes was Alex Murphy.
After finding out late Friday night he would play, the Duke transfer made his season-debut after sitting the first 10 games of the season due to NCAA transfers rules. Murphy recorded nine points, grabbed four rebounds and shot 5-of-6 from the free throw line. He also snagged two steals.
Head coach Billy Donovan mentioned prior to the game that Murphy would be able to add immediate flexibility to the lineup and he did just that.
“He can play multiple different positions both physically and mentally,” Donovan said of Murphy’s basketball IQ.
With Eli Carter out due to strep throat, Murphy was able to contribute from playing the three and four positions and hand the Gators experience throughout the game and now moving forward for the rest of the season.
Despite no flow and the offense not being efficient, the Gators played solid defense. Florida forced Wake Forest to commit 24 turnovers, including forward Devin Thomas who surrendered 11 of his own.
Florida would capitalize on 17 steals with the majority ending what were fast break opportunities to add to the defensive authority.
Now riding a four-game winning streak, Florida won’t play for 10 days until the Dec. 30 match up against rival Florida State to mark the last game of this calendar year.
The Seminoles capped of their Orange Bowl Classic with a victory over the USF Bulls to move on to a 6-5 record.
The Gators and Seminoles will face off in Tallahassee on December 30.